Image by Wonderlane via FlickrA friend visited Taiwan recently, the land where Buddha dharma has flowered.
He got us a set of books on Chan meditation and its power to redefine life and death. Also, how, through Chan meditation, one can control life and create wonders in areas where even medical science has failed. The underlying current of the books was that Chan meditation is an easy option to uncover one's hidden intellectual and physical powers. It allows even the most ordinary person to turn into a great soul. It has the power to transform a person without talent to one of great talent and a frail person into a robust one.
Chan was developed by Chan master Sheng-Yen. Sheng had to flee China during the Communist takeover in 1949 and take refuge in Taiwan. The whole idea has its basis in the fact that the mind has to concentrate on one point, whether abstract or concrete. And the attempt is to bring out the individual's greatest intellectual and physical ability, hidden deep within.
The Chan way of meditation is often referred to as the ''gateless gate''. It is so because the so-called gate is both the method of practice and the path to nirvana. Similarly, it is gateless because the Chan method does not believe in any particular method to help a practitioner achieve liberation.
In Chan, remember just one thing: A practitioner cannot be self-centred. Then, the Chan gateway opens up on its own. For that, one has to give up the notion of 'i' at all stages of life while dealing with people and all other living beings. The complete elimination of 'i' enables one to acquire wisdom to deal with others as if one is dealing with oneself. Attachment is eliminated in order to develop compassion and awareness about others' hardships and problems.
Chan stresses on two major forms of practice, both roughly corresponding to the Bodhi Dharma's two entries: one through principle (silent illumination) and the other through practice. But both the methods require the same foundation: a stable and unified mind. Both lead to the same end: the realisation of the nature of the mind, which is emptiness. It is all about acquiring Buddha-like nature, wisdom and enlightenment.
In the silent illumination method, it is important that the mind is aware and clear about things around even though there are no thoughts. Both silence and illumination must be there. Silence is total concentration and illumination is the flowering of the mind as if it shines in the mind like the sun in the sky. In other words, there is complete clarity minus the worldly baggage of attachments.
In the practice method, it is as simple as helping the needy and the helpless as if you are helping yourself. It involves devotion to others, and the practice of making offerings. Exercise is necessary to keep body and mind healthy. This is the foundation for overall spiritual development.
The effects of Chan meditation take place at two levels: psychological and physical. The psychological effects are increased patience, curing of various allergies, strengthening of will power, enhancement of the power of thought, refinement of the personality, rapid calming of the mind, mood stabilisation, raised interest and efficiency in activity and the final attainment of enlightenment. On the physical level, Chan is effective in curing diseases.
In the end, it is faith that drives Chan meditation. Other factors that help promote Chan meditation are: humility, gratitude and repentance. These traits help one become humble and humane without which no one can hope to achieve the ultimate goal - nirvana.